Jews around the world will begin celebrating Passover beginning at sunset, gathering at homes of friends and relatives to spend time together enjoying special foods like brisket and turkey, as well as enjoying the company of loved ones.
Passover, celebrated in the early spring during the Hebrew month of Nissan, commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
Jews use the eight-day holiday to experience and relive the freedoms their ancestors attained. Foods are served such as kugels, or puddings, made of potato or vegetable, as well as stuffing, usually made with matzoh farfel, small bits of matzoh. But each family enjoys different meals from various family traditions.
Observant Jews follow many guidelines, such as the prohibition of eating leavened products and refraining from work or use of electronics.
The use of leavened products are prohibited because in the Jews rush to leave the country, they did not have time for the bread to rise, so they ate flat, unleavened bread, called matzoh.
Also, food normally eaten during the year, called chametz, is forbidden during the duration of the holiday. Chametz is considered any food or drink that contains even a trace of wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, and which wasn’t watched to ensure there is no leavening or fermentation. This includes bread, cake, cookies, cereal, pasta and most alcoholic beverages.
The first and last two days are the most important days of the holiday where no work may be done. During the first two days, Jews host Seders, celebratory meals, in which they retell the story of the Exodus from slavery by reading the Haggadah, a book describing the Exodus in liturgy and psalms.
Other holiday requirements include eating matzoh, at least the first and last two days of the holiday, eating bitter herbs, usually horseradish, to commemorate the bitterness of slavery, drinking four cups of wine to celebrate freedom and reading the Haggadah so children may learn the story of the Exodus.
The middle days of the holiday, known as Chol Hamoed, or intermediate days, are less rigorous days where most types of work are permitted.
Following the first Passover Seder, Jews begin the countdown to the holiday of Shavout, the giving of the Torah, or Jewish laws, to the Jews at Mount Sinai.
Shavout, or weeks, is a seven-week period that ends with all-night learning sessions in synagogue and the reading of the Ten Commandments. It is customary for Jews to eat dairy during this holiday.